I have a confession to make and it’s one that anyone who follows the After Party podcast that I do with Bob Cesca already knows: I’ve been watching Girls this season and not entirely disliking it. Once you wrap your head around the fact that almost every female character on it is unfathomably irritating and the dramas they obsess over are largely meaningless, it has its moments of mining palpable discomfort for laughs. True, some of that discomfort comes from the inevitable weekly Lena Dunham nude scene — this past episode she was kind enough to get it out of the way right off the bat so my girlfriend and I could dispense with the usual apprehension involved in knowing it’s still to come — but laughing at the mockery coming from your own couch is still laughing. Cesca genuinely enjoys the show far more than I do, but I won’t deny watching it without being forced to against my will.
The problem, of course, is that no matter how amusing Girls may be on occasion, it’s still the product of Lena Dunham, and one thing that hasn’t come around for me is any kind of real respect for her. As a person and a New York City-specific pop culture figure she remains utterly insufferable: narcissistic, entitled, obliviously tone-deaf to how much she’s had handed to her in life because of her somewhat famous mother and her mother’s legitimately famous friends, and always ready to confuse that largess with copious amounts of talent on her own part.
Case in point: Yesterday, on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Dunham enthused about the number of her mother’s photographs you can see at MoMA and the reasons she uses fun.’s music in Girls (so that both she and her boyfriend from the band can make money). She also talked about how much she loves novelist Philip Roth because even though he’s kind of a misogynist prick at least he’s up-front about it. That matters, apparently. Which brings us to her thoughts on Woody Allen. If you figure she’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the 20-year-old inconclusive accusations of molestation against him, think again.
When the subject of Woody came up, Dunham said she was “nauseated” and “disgusted” by him and that she wholeheartedly believes the version of events as told by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. To her credit, I suppose, she said that it’s still possible to separate his art from who he is as a person and cautioned against trying to look for clues to the molestation case in his films.
“I’m not gonna indict the work. I think that you can decide that you don’t want to support the work of somebody who has molested a child. That’s a completely appropriate choice. But going through it and saying, ‘Look, he’s told us in 57 ways that he rapes kids,’ that’s not the thing. The thing is to look at the actual evidence that exists in the world, which I think strongly suggests that Woody Allen is in the wrong. But for me the point is not to go through his one-act plays looking for references to child molestation. Because I’m not comfortable living in a world where art is part of how we convict people of crimes.”
Faint praise. And it got even fainter when she said this about Woody’s work:
“I mean for me. I haven’t wanted to watch his movies for a long time, partially because of who I think he is and partially because I think they got really bad.”
Here’s where I remind you that Lena Dunham is 27-years-old. So how long has this “long time” been since she’s thought Woody Allen’s films were good and worth watching? It’s easy for me to say that I liked his stuff through the 70s and 80s more than his recent material — although the very recent material has been a return to form — but that’s because I’m in my 40s. To say that when you’re a millennial takes nerve, and it takes even more so when you’re a millennial who’s known for being a comic filmmaker and TV producer. In some ways, there’s a hell of a lot more chutzpah involved in Lena Dunham’s insulting of Woody Allen’s work than in her belief that he’s a child molester.
But what’s most interesting is the kind of deference Dunham’s opinion is being shown. Salon touted the notion that Dunham “does not shy away from controversy” in reporting on her remarks yesterday. This came just one day after Daniel D’Addario, who perhaps is Salon’s most artless purveyor of pissy teen-style outrage, wrote an entire piece skewering Scarlett Johansson for, among other things, her “awful” defense of Allen, despite the fact that she’s been in three of his movies and is pretty close to him. Admittedly, she called Dylan Farrow’s New York Times op-ed “irresponsible,” but her point was that Farrow was wrong to try to drag actors who had worked with Allen into taking a firm stand about something they couldn’t possibly comment on authoritatively. In other words, she didn’t say a damn thing “awful” or even all that unreasonable. But she gets castigated, while Dunham — because she openly criticizes Allen and implies that he’s a child molester, and because she’s somehow held up as a feminist icon for not looking like Scarlett Johansson — is lauded for her supposedly ballsy willingness to speak her mind. Certainly, nobody should cry for Johannson, but it’s still a crappy double-standard: Scarlett’s a blonde bombshell who needs to keep her mouth shut and just look good, while Dunham is some kind of worthwhile artist whose opinion we should care about precisely because she isn’t everything Johannson is.
Lena Dunham is of course entitled to her opinion the way that any of us is. If she thinks Woody Allen is absolutely guilty of molesting his daughter despite a court determining otherwise — and I’m not saying he did or didn’t do it, only that the matter is closed whether his detractors like it or not — then that’s her business. She’s also not required to love his movies, new or old. But the reality is that her opinion shouldn’t carry an ounce more weight than anyone else’s in Hollywood and it certainly shouldn’t be praised just because doing so serves an agenda, whether that be defending the honor of an alleged victim of molestation or simply perpetuating the Allen-Farrow saga in the name of controversy and click-bait.
Remember, the season finale of Girls airs this Sunday. If you’re a snarky media asshole like me or you simply live inside the New York City bubble, be sure to watch. Everybody else — you’ll probably have something better to do. Hell, you may not even know who I’ve been talking about for the past five minutes.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.